IT is extremely disheartening that, in 2022 we are still having the debate about women’s sport holding less appeal than men’s.

What is even more dispiriting is when the debate is spearheaded by a former female athlete and world No.1.

Amelie Mauresmo’s comments last week that men’s tennis holds “more appeal” than women’s were startling. Mauresmo made her name as one of the best female players of the early 2000s but these days she is tournament director of the French Open.

Her claims came in response to the question of why had only one women’s game been scheduled at night on the main show court in the  “match of the day”.

And why had 18 of the 20 matches given the so-called “graveyard slot”, the first match of the day on the two main courts, been women’s matches?

Her reasoning was that women’s tennis is a less attractive product.

“In this era we are in right now, and as a woman, a former woman’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying, that right now you have more attraction, can you say that, appeal [in the men’s game]?”

It is some statement from someone whose success is down to the women game.

Mauresmo’s comments may have been directed at her own sport but they apply to so many others. Football, rugby, athletics, boxing, the list is endless of sports in which the female version is seen as “less attractive”.

There is a reason for this, and it is not that female athletes are inherently less capable, less appealing and less worthy than their male counterparts.

It is because of the overwhelming levels of unconscious bias that exist throughout sport – and in society in general.

Female sport is not, by its nature, less appealing; it is marketed as less appealing by a system that was made primarily by men and is upheld primarily by men.

How can any sports fan or member of the public be expected to have high levels of interest in female athletes who are invested in less, given less media attention and far less of the spotlight? The system has ensured we don’t know anything about many of the elite female athletes.

There are, of course, cases when male athletes deserve a higher billing. Rafa Nadal versus Novak Djokovic was one such case; no one was arguing their quarter-final last week was not match of the day.

But don’t tell me every men’s match given the grandstand slot at this year’s French Open had anything like the same appeal.

In tennis particularly, the standing of the Big Three is the excuse given for all forms of bias shown to men and a similar argument is applied to many sports who have male superstars at the top of the tree.

In some cases, this is legitimate. But the suggestion women’s tennis is bereft of superstars is preposterous. Coco Gauff, at only 18, is already remarkable on and off the court.

Iga Swiatek is world No.1 and has been imperious this year.

The reason these players, and their peers, do not enjoy superstar status is because of a system that has been manufactured to favour the men.

It is a system that men developed and men support in order to maintain the status quo.

The fact Mauresmo’s comments received such a ferocious backlash – within a day, she had apologised and rowed back on what she had said – is positive; not too long ago, the suggestion that men’s sport was more appealing would have gone unchallenged.

But the fact a former female athlete possesses such views, and saw no issue in airing them, highlights just how much unconscious bias needs to be eliminated before female sport is given the same worth as men’s.


When is this blatant sportswashing going to stop?

The announcement that Anthony Joshua’s next fight – his re-match against Oleksandr Usyk in which the Englishman is looking to reclaim his unified heavyweight titles after losing to Usyk in September – will be in Saudi Arabia is as unsurprising as it is disappointing.

The pair will claw in many millions of pounds for taking the bout to the Middle East but at what point, if any, does money stop being the most important factor in any decision?

We are all well aware that countries like Saudi Arabia want to use sport to draw attention away from the less savoury aspects of their behaviour and the arguments against taking major sporting events to the likes of Saudi Arabia, which have and continue to commit serious human rights abuses, are well known.

So too, are the defences of taking major sporting events to these places.

The defenders ask why should boxers, who are putting their lives on the line each time they enter the ring, take less money than is on offer? Why should boxing, or sport in general, turn its back on these nations when business and governments do not do the same?

In the end, it comes down not to morals, but to money, pure and simple. How much money is enough money? Both Joshua and Usyk are millionaires many times over. Do they need more?

It is sad that despite this, they are quite so willing to disregard the sportswashing in order to line their pockets even further.